Abridged Timeline For Important Office

Under The Hood

Image courtesy Pixabay

It takes a certain level of confidence and intuition to put your name on the ballot. An expected opening in the state House has accelerated the period of time hopefuls in Manatee have to consider a run.

Since state Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, was selected as the new president of State College of Florida, two candidates have already emerged to succeed him in House District 72: Manatee County School Board member Rich Tatem and Kimley-Horn shareholder Bill Conerly.

But a number of other candidates are in the mix as well, including former Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, former State Attorney candidate Lisa Chittaro and AG Creative Marketing consultant Alyssa Gay.

It’s no easy task finding the gumption to file, yet that is the easy part. There’s already every sign this race could turn nasty. Many campaign consultants Brett Doster and Anthony Pedicini have already signed on with Tatem and Conerly respectively.

When this seat was last open six years ago, the race between Gregory and then-promising candidate Melissa Howard blew up in an embarrassing fashion as Howard’s academic credentials were called into question, and then she was caught doctoring a fake college degree. The greatest lesson there, it would seem, is don’t exaggerate any part of your resume that matters so little in whether you get the job.

But while there’s risk in putting ones reputation on the line for public office, there’s plenty of good that can be done from a seat in the Florida Legislature.

The real calculus everyone must go through in an abridged time frame — candidates have until noon on June 14 to qualify — likely has to do with their chance at victory. The August 20 primary isn’t that longer afterward, and in a seat as red as this, that’s the contest that will effectively choose the next House representative for east Manatee.

The irony there is the more candidates who run, the less votes it will take to come out on top of a winner-takes all primary. This is a Republican seat, so expect the winner of the primary to move on to the House of Representatives.

Early in the campaign, Tatem has staked out a socially conservative platform as a champion of parental rights, That’s after the same message effectively won him his Manatee School Board seat in 2022, in close alignment with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education platform as he secured re-election.

Conerly, meanwhile, has promised an “America First” approach, words familiar to anyone following former President Donald Trump’s messaging for the last eight years.

It will be interesting to see how this race develops, but it has quickly became top-tier in what had seemed like a sleepy election season in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. We’ll see if it gets more exciting as more candidates enter the fray.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor of SRQ Media Group.

Image courtesy Pixabay

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